There’s no way around it: ediscovery can be expensive. With the constantly expanding universe of data—and the continually growing variety of business applications giving rise to new data formats and new ediscovery challenges—legal teams face considerable challenges in managing their ediscovery budgets. When an organization needs to conduct an investigation or respond to the threat of litigation, combing through its data to identify and eventually produce relevant information consumes considerable time and money.
But there are things you can do to control the costs of ediscovery. Here are seven straightforward (though perhaps not easy) ways to reduce ediscovery costs.
1) Be a good governor of your organization’s information.
The less data you have to manage through the ediscovery process, the lower your costs. By extension, then, the less data your organization retains, the lower your overall ediscovery budget can be. Implementing a retention policy is a good way to reduce your organization’s overall data profile.
Maintaining too much data is like building a far larger house than you need. You need to pay for building materials and labor for every square foot, but the costs don’t end there. You’ll have to pay to furnish, insure, maintain, clean, heat, or cool all of those spaces (not to mention paying taxes on the whole property). You could focus on each element of the cost equation, sourcing cheaper lumber, comparing insurance policies, and shopping for lower-cost furnishings. Or you could reduce the size of the house and immediately cut your expenses across the board.
Likewise, with ediscovery, you can focus on cost-effective technology, faster or cheaper review teams, and lower per-GB storage costs. You can likely cut your budget some by taking these incremental steps—but you could save far more, with far less effort, by limiting the volume of data your organization manages.
We’re not suggesting that you throw everything out but rather that you remain mindful of the value of each type of data you accumulate. Client lists are valuable, as are project notes or customer tickets. But social chats on the Slack “lunch” channel likely aren’t. Having to sift through those chats years later because an employee has filed a hostile workplace claim is a guaranteed way to pay more, not less, for ediscovery.
Delete the ROT—redundant, outdated, and trivial data—regularly. Avoid allegations of spoliation by making clear policies about what data you’ll keep and what you’ll automatically delete, and document your decisions (more on this later) to defend your choices.
2) Be a minimalist when it comes to data collection.
Diligent information governance is a good start, but you can do more to reduce data flow through the ediscovery pipeline. Minimize that flow at the top of the funnel by collecting less data. You’ll automatically reduce your data storage costs by pushing less data through to the more expensive stages of ediscovery like review.
Start by preserving data in place whenever it’s feasible to do so. Keeping your data in place saves the cost of storage for data you’ve collected in an external repository. Of course, if data that’s “preserved” in place isn’t safe from deletion or modification, it isn’t truly preserved, so be sure you can trust your data source first. Additionally, preserving data at the point of creation is the ideal corporate security posture as data does not have to be stored in a different location for preservation.
For information used repeatedly in ediscovery, look for technology that lets you deduplicate and collect that data once and then reuse it across multiple matters. Company policies, for example, should be subject to a “collect once, use many” data collection policy instead of being separately collected for each matter that implicates them.
And, of course, you should narrowly target your preservation and collection efforts—which brings us to our next point.
3) Be laser-focused to reduce ediscovery costs.
To maintain firm limits on the amount of data you collect and manage through the ediscovery pipeline, you’ll need to put in the effort at the outset to scope each matter appropriately. That means defining limits around custodians, date ranges, and search terms and sticking to those limits. Ensure that you know how to search through every type of data your organization generates efficiently and combine different limits, such as custodians and keywords, to focus on the data that matters. Be on the lookout for scope creep and plan how to rein a matter back in if you find it’s gotten out of hand.
A well-defined early case assessment (ECA) framework will help you quickly sort potential claims, separating the critical matters from the minor hassles—which is our next point.
4) Be mindful of proportionality.
You’re probably not trying to scrimp on your ediscovery budget when facing a bet-the-company lawsuit. But be equally vigilant about the other side of the spectrum. If a threatened matter is small potatoes, don’t let your ediscovery costs pile up.
Keep the likely scope of a matter in mind when planning your ediscovery approach. Sound ECA can help you spot these situations by giving you faster insight into what a case is worth before you overspend.
5) Be proactive, prepared, and prompt.
Planning ahead of time is generally more cost-effective than waiting until the last minute to manage a spiraling control situation. Being proactive about preparing for ediscovery before you have a problem—especially with complex or challenging data sources—will spare you from a frantic scramble where you’ll pay any amount to a vendor who promises to fix your problem. Creating a map of your organization’s data sources is a great way to prepare for future ediscovery requests—and, therefore, a great way to save money.
Remember that the longer ediscovery drags on, the more it costs. The costly nature of ediscovery is another argument in favor of ECA: while you won’t want to settle every matter that crosses your desk, you will want to settle some of them, and the faster you can reach a settlement, the less you’ll spend on ediscovery.
For that matter, proactively preserving data that you’re obligated to protect is a lot cheaper than fighting about spoliation in court.
6) Be cooperative.
Here’s a terrific way to spend an exorbitant amount on ediscovery: get wrapped up in litigation about ediscovery. By the time you’ve filed responses to your opponent’s repeated motions to compel and argue to the judge about why you’re justified in not providing data from sources A, B, and C, you’ll most likely have spent more than the underlying litigation was worth.
Sure, you may not be able to be cooperative and accommodating in every case or with every opponent, but starting from a baseline of cooperation will save you money in the long run.
Plus, when you’re cooperative, you can often formally stipulate facts and thereby eliminate the need for ediscovery of those facts. While you’re at it, see whether you can specify which data sources you’ll provide discovery from and what (narrow) date range you’ll confine discovery.
7) Be a good record-keeper.
We’ve touched on record-keeping a few times already, but this point bears repeating: having thorough records that explain your decisions is crucial to defending against spoliation claims. Be sure to document your findings to automatically delete data, limit the date range, or only place certain custodians on hold.
Is your ediscovery spend overwhelming your overall budget? Are you prepared to identify discoverable data in every data source that your organization uses? Can you quickly conduct complex searches in Slack, Jira, Trello, and every other online platform you use to manage business issues?
Whatever the ediscovery challenges you’re facing, Hanzo can help. We know how complex and expensive modern ediscovery can be. We’ve designed solutions that let our customers face ediscovery and regulatory inquiries confidently, no matter what SaaS applications or tools they use.
Contact us to learn more or schedule a demo.